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Mae Young Classic recap & reactions (Oct. 17, 2018): True Strength

Round three of the Mae Young Classic concluded last night (Oct. 17, 2018) on the WWE Network. You can find all the match results and a detailed play-by-play on the live blog here.

The winners in round three were heavy favorites to win the entire tournament, but the injury we knew was coming finally reared it’s ugly head and a fan favorite was forced out of the MYC all together.

Lacey Lane vs. Meiko Satomura

This match may have been the opener, but it was my favorite of the night. By this point, it should come as no surprise that I am a Meiko mark. They call her a legend for a reason - not only is she the best in the world, but she brings out the best in all her competitors. Lacey Lane was no exception.

In the previous first two rounds Lacey, although impressive, seemed slightly off. There was a bigish botch from her during her match with Vanessa Kraven (that she covered very well) and, frankly, the match with Taynara wasn’t great, Perhaps she just gained some confidence by round three that was more apparent, but what I think happened is two-fold. She knew that anything she tried with Meiko, Meiko could handle and that she knew that wrestling Meiko was a once in a lifetime deal for her - she had to give it her all. Whatever happened, it’s safe to say that this was Lacey’s best match of the tournament.

Meiko was of course calm, cool and a BAMF. This round her energy felt similar to when she wrestled Killer Kelly - she had mentor energy. By which I mean, she knew she was going to win, was impressed with the talent in the ring, but also happily reminded them who she was. It’s almost like she purposely let Lacey get in some good offense before she destroyed her.

A great example of that was when Meiko blocked a few moves from Lacey and then Lacey blocked some from Meiko. Meiko literally stopped, looked impressed, said “good job” and offered Lacey a handshake. Lacey refused - probably feeling the slight condescension of the offer - and Meiko seemed offended. BIG MISTAKE. She let Lacey know her feelings with a few kicks to the gut.

Note to self: always shake Meiko’s hand when offered.

Although Meiko was in charge for the majority of the match Lacey did get a close pin attempt with a double jump springboard cross body. Meiko then seemed to decide that she was done playing around because she answered Lacey’s pin attempt with a kicked to the face and put her away with a DVD.

This match was fast, fun and let Lacey shine in a way that she hadn’t before. Although she was eliminated I am looking forward to seeing Lacey in NXT!

As for Meiko? Well, she’s simply still the best. Next round is (spoiler) her vs Toni Storm which should burn the whole building down.

Io Shirai vs. Deonna Purazzo

I was initially really excited for this match, but it was my least favorite of this episode (I am not counting Nox vs Ripley). I love Io Shirai, but there is something about her matches in the MYC that is just not working for me. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still incredible, but I always feel a little let down.

The first two matches felt very one sided and jobber heavy - which is fine - she is new to a lot of people watching, good to establish her as dominant. In light of that, however, I expected this one to tear the house down. It didn’t. It was good, but it was slow and there were a few moments - like the finish - that just seemed a little off. I hope this is just Io getting used to WWE and vice versa, but I expected a little more. In many ways this match felt like a lot of great spots, that kind of fit together, but needed better transitions.

Of course this is still Io Shirai and a match that I found slightly underwhelming is still a very good match. I enjoyed the tit-for-tat moments between Deonna and Io, trading back handspring blows, as well as her homage to her hero Rey Mysterio.

Deonna on the other hand is someone who I have grown to really love through this tournament. Again, I’ve seen her wrestle live for years and it’s never really done anything for me. In WWE she seems to have blossomed in a way that I wasn’t expecting. It’s a unique feeling to think “wow I like her in WWE way more than on the indies.” She’s seem to let loose - both figuratively and literally.

Heh. See what I did there?

Ultimately, Io had Deonna’s number and put her away with a moonsault (that barely hit her, but whatever - wrestling!) after freeing herself from a wicked armbar attempt from Deonna.

This match had a lot of great moments - very giffable - but I feel like the pace and story telling could’ve been a little clearer coming from two extremely talented wrestlers like Deonna and Io.

Tegan Nox vs. Rhea Ripley

The only word to describe this match is heartbreaking. We all knew it was coming (for the last time it’s not a spoiler as WWE went out of their way to publicize the injury), but watching Tegan’s injury happen was incredibly sad.

I was shocked at how quickly it occurred - it was literally one of the very first moves in the match! I also didn’t realize from previous reporting that it was in fact her “good knee” and not the knee that was just reconstructed. Double whammy.

Tegan, ever the fighter, tried to continue the match, but with every new bump she took her injury seems to become more inhibiting.

Kudos to her for attempting to work through the injury, she showed an incredible amount of determination and heart, but ultimately the ref made the call to cancel the match when Tegan said to the trainer “I can’t do it anymore.”

Rhea Ripley won this match by default, but I do think she deserves some credit too. She listened to the ref, Tegan and the trainers and she stayed in character the entire time. It would have been really easy for Rhea to break and look worried for Tegan, which I think would’ve made the situation feel worse. Rhea being a steady force in the match actually made it feel better for me. In a business where lots of crazy things like injuries happen all the time, I appreciated that she could keep some kayfabe. Wrestling and wrestling story-lines always continue, regardless of injury, and Rhea made me feel less bad for watching this heartbreaking injury.

...still don’t like her though.

Toni Storm vs Mia Yim

The final match of the night had the audience divided as Toni and Mia are two of Fullsail's favorite regular non-NXT based wrestlers. Right from the get go there were competing chants of “Lets go Toni” “Mia Yim’ dividing the crowd. (Note: Toni is now signed with NXT UK and Mia has officially been announced as a new signee for NXT).

Although Full Sail is full of marks and I think it’s impressive that these wrestlers have gotten themselves over with the crowd so much considering that they have truly only seen them a handful of times in WWE. It really speaks to the story telling talent - both in ring and outside the ring - that these two competitors posses.

It’s the quarter finals, which means everyone in these matches can feel how close they are to the final. Both Mia and Toni were confident and focused throughout the match, but they both brought a distinct energy. Toni’s felt relentless, like she had to win, literally no other option, while Mia’s felt like she deserved to win. She worked this hard, went through some big life transformations and being in the final would be her prize. The juxtaposition of those two attitudes brought so many layers to the match that even when doing a simple collar and elbow tie up or trading strikes the energy was buzzing.

Toni was quick and delivered a bevvy of strikes whenever she had a chance, while Mia showed off her skills as power wrestler. I particularly love this transformation in Mia. She’s always been very talented but I feel like coinciding with her mean streak she has become a powerhouse. Her strikes look stronger and her ability to toss her opponents around is super effective juxtaposed against her own quickness and high flying abilities.

I appreciated the story they continued to tell about Mia’s hand because although Mia lost she can easily blame the hand down the line which sets her up for other feuds and matches within NXT.

Toni was able to kick out of Mia’s powerbomb and put Mia away with a Storm Zero. Toni Time continues into the final round before Evolution.

Heartbreaking injury aside, this was a really solid episode of the Mae Young Classic. The winners were a bit obvious, but we’re to the point in the tournament where all the competitors are favorites to win.

Next week our final matches before Evolution are:

Meiko Satomura vs. Toni Storm & Io Shiari vs Rhea Ripley.

Man, I love women’s wrestling.

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